This past shabbas was, of course, the first shabbas of the year and as we now read the Torah a full go every year, we start back at the beginning. Until last year, I had always synthesized what we read in the first however-many chapters there are in the first book of the Bible with what we know scientifically. However, it is a little difficult. Furthermore, I had been clued in last year that a lot of the stuff in the beginning is not necessarily 'history' as we understand it now, but rather it is trying to relate the fabulas going on in stories (story vs. fabula distinction) in order to relate moral lessons for us.
In the days leading up to shabbas and especially as the reading of the Torah was being performed on Saturday morning, I was utterly struck by what I was reading, mainly by the word choice as well as ideas. I understood, by reading it, that the creation story was very carefully constructed as well as the ages of the various people, which clearly has to be done very specifically. In any event, I was having trouble with understanding the beginning, in general.
Fortunately, my puzzlement after the reading of the Torah was short-lived as Rabbi Schnaidman (of Mt. Sinai, my new shul) spoke, in no uncertain terms, that the story of the creation of the universe is not meant to be scientific. Furthermore, he said, that we're not supposed to try to reconcile it with science as that's not what it's meant to do. He relied heavily on Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed, book 2, chapter 25 to support what he was saying about science and the Torah. I found the speech very interesting and helpful. This was my most-liked speech of his so far (my previous favorite was his eulogy of Yasir Arafat where he described ten good things about his death).
Granted, I haven't heard a lot of his sermons, as he didn't speak in the summer, and I usually don't make it up for shul on shabbas mornings, but this shabbas I had set my alarm to wake me up - and it did. I felt kind of bad for myself that I wasn't allowing myself all the sleep that I needed, which is definitely not a very restful way of spending shabbat, but it was better feeling for me to have attended services from close to the beginning and not come just for the schmoozing. (which is definitely a highlight for me)